What happens to the radioactive waste?
There are two types of waste that accrue at the HZB research reactor: the depleted core fuels and other radioactive substances.
Depleted fuel elements are shipped about every one to two years in thick walled special containers that protect against radiation and retain their contents in the event of potential accidents. Until may 2016 depleted uranium fuel elements are shipped to the USA for interim and later permanent storage. For fuel elements consumed after May 2016, a disposal agreement with the Ahaus storage facility exists.
The other active substances are “low level radioactive”, in a few cases “medium level radioactive”. This partly liquid, partly solid waste accrues when the reactor is operating and includes e.g. resins for the water purification systems, beam hole inserts used in experimental mode, etc. The documentation of radiation protection at the HZB shows that the activity of these materials is low. Liquid waste is mixed with concrete and set and like the solid waste sealed in 200 litre barrels. These are then shipped to subterranean permanent storage in the Federal Republic of Germany.
Radioactive waste also accrues elsewhere in Berlin, and above all in hospitals. The contribution the HZB makes to the total quantity in Berlin is about 5–10%.
Sealed in safe special containers the depleted fuel elements from the HZB research reactor are shipped to the USA. All other radioactive waste is prepared for permanent storage in the Federal Republic.